Task 15 – Case Study – BINDA-BIGGA Demand Management Project – Australia

Binda-Bigga Demand Management Project – Australia

This is the 10th article in a series highlighting the case studies of DSM Task 15, Network Driven DSM. This Task demonstrated that DSM can be successfully used to support electricity networks in two main ways:

1) by relieving constraints on distribution and/ or transmission networks at lower costs than building ‘poles and wires’ solutions, and
2) by providing services for electricity network system operators, achieving peak load reductions with various response times for network operational support.


The implementor for this project, the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA), was established in 1996 by the State Government of New South Wales, with a mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through promoting energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy.  SEDA operated as an independent government agency until mid-2004 when it was merged with another New South Wales Government department.

The project proponent, Country Energy, was the holding company for two businesses as the owner and operator of an electricity distribution network and as a retailer of electricity, natural gas, bottled gas and water.  The two businesses were ring-fenced from each other and carried out their functions independently.  In 2011, subsequent to the Binda-Bigga project, the retailing and electricity distribution businesses were split into two separate entities with different owners.  The retailer retained the Country Energy name and the distribution business is now known as Essential Energy.

In 2004, at the time of the Binda-Bigga project, Country Energy Network managed Australia’s largest energy supply network in regional and rural areas across 95 per cent of the State of New South Wales, serving around 870,000 customers.

Binda and Bigga are two small rural settlements near Crookwell about 230 km south-west of Sydney.  The Binda-Bigga area has about 250 electricity customers, mostly residential.

The electricity line that runs from Binda to Bigga and then further on to Grabine was installed by Country Energy in the 1980s.  In 2004, overall load growth on the line was relatively low but, as peak electricity use increased in the area, the line was reaching its maximum capacity.  The base electrical load used for the line was 750kVA, however peak demand had been registered at 1,000kVA.

Fault levels and voltage levels were a concern along the line, especially during storm events, due to the length of the line and the rugged country through which the line passes.  Many customers in Binda and Bigga were experiencing unacceptable voltage fluctuations which could be resolved only by extensive reconductoring of the line.

In 2004, Country Energy contracted SEDA to relieve the electrical demand on the Crookwell to Grabine feeder during times of winter evening peaks.  The aim of the contract was to defer the need forthe upgrade of the Crookwell to Grabine feeder by reducing the demand for energy during the winter evening peak periods (the four hours from 6 pm to 10 pm). electricity.

Initial Investigation

There were two winter peaks on the Crookwell to Grabine feeder, one around midnight due to off-peak hot water controlled loads and an evening peak (see Figure 1).  The evening peak tended to occur on days when the minimum temperature dropped as low as minus 9 degrees Celsius.


             Figure 1.  Peak Winter Demand on the Crookwell to Grabine Feeder

In January 2004, SEDA conducted a survey of Binda and Bigga residents to explore what might have been causing the peaks in electricity demand during winter evenings.  Results showed that a typical winter energy bill was over AUD 250 each quarter – a large percentage due to room heating and cooking end-uses.

Project Objectives

The following objectives were established for the project:

  • to reduce the electricity load on Country Energy’s Crookwell to Grabine feeder by 200kVA by 2006 during winter evening peaks (the four hours from 6 pm to 10 pm);
  • to deliver real benefits to rural customers through reducing their energy consumption and improving the quality of supply for residents on the Crookwell to Grabine feeder;
  • to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through fuel substitution of electric appliances to gas.

DSM Strategies

Two DSM strategies were investigated:

  • Cogeneration Option: the installation of a cogeneration plant at the Grabine State Recreation Park to achieve a reduction of 100kVA in peak electrical demand; and
  • Domestic Solution: a range of strategies to facilitate the uptake of energy efficient products and measures, primarily achieved through fuel substitution of residential appliances from electricity to bottled gas to achieve a reduction of another 100kVA in peak electrical demand.

After an initial investigation, the Cogeneration Option proved uneconomic, so the Domestic Solution was the method by which the total required demand reduction of 200kVA was sought.

The Domestic Solution facilitated the uptake of energy efficient products and measures by residents through a range of residential DSM strategies.  It integrated the following strategies:

  • developing an Energy Saver Package;
  • engaging local project partners;
  • offering Energy Smart Home audits;
  • implementing marketing and communications campaigns; and
  • holding community forums in Binda and Bigga.

Energy Saver Package

The Energy Saver Package was developed as the primary mechanism to achieve the required demand management reduction of 200kVA.  To reduce the demand on the electricity feeder during the peak time, the Package was structured around appliances that would reduce electricity demand from residents cooking an evening meal and heating their homes.

The Energy Saver Package enabled residents to affordably switch from electric to gas appliances (see Figure 2).  It offered residents:

  • discounted gas room heaters and cooking stoves (a maximum of two appliances per household);
  • free installation of gas appliances and gas bottles, and removal of electrical appliances for metal recycling; and
  • gas credits of AUD 170 per appliance – equivalent to free gas for a year.

To achieve the peak demand reduction target of 200kVA, the installation of 98 gas appliances was required.


           Figure 2.  Cost of Gas Appliances Offered in the Energy Saver Package

Customers were required to meet a number of conditions to qualify for the Energy Saver Package.  They had to:

  • be connected to the Crookwell to Grabine Feeder, and be a Country Energy customer;
  • agree to surrender their electric heaters and stoves at the time of installation of the new gas appliances;
  • commit to leaving gas appliances installed and operational for a period of 5 years; and
  • submit signed a Customer Form and payment by 30 September 2004 (extended to 31 October 2004).

The Energy Saver Package was designed to be easy for residents.  The new gas appliances were delivered to the customers’ homes and the appliances and gas bottles were installed. The old electric appliances were removed during the same visit and taken for recycling.

Energy Smart Home Audits

Energy Smart Home audits were offered to residents in Binda and Bigga to facilitate the uptake of energy efficient products and measures.  The audits also provided the opportunity for residents to have assessed the suitability of their home/appliances for the gas appliance offer.

The three components of an Energy Smart Home audit comprise a Star Rating, a virtual home audit and a personal visit from an Energy Assessor.  The audit provides a measure of energy efficiency for a home by comparing its rating to an average. The result is a star rating between 1 and 5, with 5 being the most energy efficient.  Moving up just one star can save AUD 150-300 per annum.

Residents were offered an Energy Smart Home audit for AUD 20, rather than the normal AUD 100, and the cost of the audit was redeemable against the purchase of a gas heater or stove (as part of the Energy Saver Package).

Marketing and Communications

The Energy Saver Package was promoted to residents through a brochure and poster detailing the Energy Saver Package options, advertising two community forums for residents and providing information on Energy Smart Home audits.

Two free community forums were held in Binda and Bigga. Topics covered included:

  • the Energy Saver Package;
  • Energy Smart Home audits;
  • Green Power – electricity generated from renewable sources; and
  • tips on saving energy around the home and reducing bills.

The Project Team was on hand to provide additional information on the Energy Saver Package products, gas connections and installations.  Gas appliances were on display for residents to view the products included in the Package.  Energy efficient prizes were on offer at the forums, including Energy Saver kits which featured a compact fluorescent light bulb, door snake, AAA-rated showerhead and toilet cistern weight.

Finally, a competition was held in which residents could win one of two solar hot water systems.  All residents who purchased and qualified for an Energy Saver Package were entered into the competition.


Overall 70 customers purchased an Energy Saver Package, purchasing 106 appliances in total, between July and October 2004.  This exceeded the target of 98 appliances and included:

  • 60 unflued room heaters (56%);
  • 42 cooking stoves (40%); and
  •   4 flued room heaters (4%).

Of the 70 Energy Saver Packages purchased, the most popular package was the “unflued room heater + cooking stove package” (34 customers), followed by the sole purchase of an unflued heater (26 customers) (see Figure 3).


                      Figure 3.  Type of Energy Saver Package Purchased

Only 17 customers were already connected to a bottled gas supply with 53 customers requiring gas connection including slab, bottle delivery, piping and wiring.

A total of 106 electric heaters and stoves (64 room heaters and 42 cooking stoves) were removed and recycled at the metal recycling facility at Crookwell Waste and Recycling Centre.

In the week of the 19th to 23rd July 2004, 13 Energy Smart Home audits were conducted, as well as a further six visits to homes to assess suitability of gas appliances being installed if residents purchased an Energy Saver Package.  Residents at 16 of the 19 properties visited purchased the Energy Saver Package offer.

Figure 4 shows the reduction in the peak load on the Crookwell to Grabine feeder after implementation of the Binda-Bigga Demand Management Project.


Figure 4.  Load on the Crookwell to Grabine Feeder Before and After        Implementation of the Bigga-Bigga Demand Management Project

The network augmentation solution involving an upgrade of the Crookwell to Grabine feeder was estimated to cost AUD 412,500 over a five year period.  The cost to Country Energy of the demand management project was AUD 108,000 (an average rate of $540/kVA reduced).  This represents the cost savings from deferring the investment in network infrastructure for five years.  Binda-Bigga residents contributed an additional AUD 28,412 to the cost of the gas appliances.


This project is an interesting example of a successful small-scale fuel substitution project with an extremely high take-up rate by the end-user participants.

Download case study here

This article was contributed by David Crossley, Managing Director of Energy Futures Australia Pty. Ltd and Senior Advisor at The Regulatory Assistance Project.  For more information on this case study and others, visit Task 15, Network Driven DSM at:

Task 15, Network Driven DSM